Wednesday, February 3, 2010


How close is 10 feet away from a 600-pound tiger?

Close enough to see your reflection in her eyes as she focuses on you. Fortunately, James Lew was standing next to me (see photo of us during Tiger Segment) and we laugh as I casually mention that me being English and him Chinese, if you were a tiger, which food is better, Chinese or English food?

I suddenly feel safer, until we measure the strength of its playful paw swat against a ball. In steps our human kung fu cat to see just how playful his swat is or is it something that would make us yell me-OW!

In this episode of Fight Science, Fight Like an Animal, which airs Thursday, Feb 4th at 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm on the National Geographic Channel, we compare the fighting assets and abilities of the white crane, praying mantis, monkey, snake and tiger with five human martial brothers.

Apart from the tiger, other special guests include a huge albino rattlesnake, Ripley the monkey (like the one in the film Pirates of the Caribbean) and a gazillion flies that zip around the set like kids on too much candy.

The amazing animal wranglers understand how to read the moods and intents of the “normal” animal behaviors, but we want to know more about their fighting behaviors. Thus the show, our martial artists, and our scientific panel to fill in those missing blanks.

Intense silence as the snake slithers, rattles then…WISSSS…a fast venomous strike at a water-filled balloon teaching us its speed and accuracy. Next, our martial arts heroine with rapid-fire attacks plunges her fingers into a dummy head’s eyes…ouch man.

When someone asks how can we stop such a snake attack, I grin and blurt, “With an anti-hissss-tamine.”

We compare the speeds and find two things: Don’t attack the snake or the kung fu lady; and something else so far out that we are still floating on the planet Pluto.

Ripley climbs, leaps and freaks his way all over an on-set, elaborately built trellis system. With monkey see, monkey do and catch me if you can mentality, our monkey man kung fu stylist does all of the above. But what amazes is the size of our human simian.

You’ve heard the saying about not touching something with a 10-foot pole? Well our white crane kung fu stylist stands on a 8-foot pole on one foot trying not to be touched by deadly ninja stars (shurikens) being thrown at his exposed body. One slip of the foot, it’s the emergency room.

The final buzz on set was our mantis stylist trying to catch all those flies like a praying mantis, where for the next couple of days the fly escapees bug us.

In the 1970’s, hundred of kung fu films made in Taiwan and Hong Kong emulated these animal fighting strategies…human battles of animal nature.

My fascination with animals’ styles in film is one reason why I wrote The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies Vol. One: 500+ Fight Films of the 1970s, coming out at the end of 2010. In the book I also discuss animal style histories and how the fights were choreographed.

Hope you enjoy the show.

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